Earlier this year, I was diagnosed with stage 1B, invasive carcinoma with both ductal and lobular features.
I’ve been through two surgeries this year. Each procedure was timed to give me just enough of a lag to recover from the one before, and every break meant getting back into the gym whenever possible—fitness helps me fight.
Post-cancer, with careful consideration and research, I refused the radiation.
My oncologist didn’t push, but did ask me to keep a couple of things in mind—diet and exercise. That’s all my husband, an athletic soldier, needed to hear. I could see his thoughts leave the room, head out to parking lot, and go straight to the gym.
Diet was less of a concern for us. We’ve already cut out all processed food and sugary drinks, we’ve been sober, and living a whole food, plant-based lifestyle for over a year at this point. Becoming more aggressive with my workout post-oophorectomy than was allowed post-mastectomy, I knew I would have some catching up to do. And I find there’s nothing better than having a personal trainer, especially when it’s free.
Clint, my husband, puts together my physical training schedule, and I follow him mindlessly around the gym for 30 to 45 minutes, four times a week. After long work days, with dozens of follow-up doctor appointments, and tons of decisions to make, I enjoy not thinking about this area of my life.
We hit the ground running at the onset of a new month, and he wanted to start with core work. He had me get up on what I now affectionately know to be the “Roman chair.” He instructs, “start doing leg kicks, alternating left leg then right leg, and do that 10 times each side—we’ll do three sets.”
No biggie, I thought. I can do this—one, two, three, four—I’m swinging my legs up and down like I’m running air track, five, six, seven…uh, something’s happening here!
I could feel a tingle in the tips of my toes, and like a wildfire burning—slowly building, moving faster, now hotter, creeping ever-longingly up my legs, now my thighs: Oh my god, I’m having an orgasm.
The look on my face really says it all. “Are you okay?” Clint asks. I’m shocked, and I’m aware that we are not alone in this space. I look around the room, panicked, as if I had just lived the infamous diner scene out of “When Harry Met Sally,” but nobody else was paying any attention.
“Honey, I can’t do that anymore,” I exclaimed, blushing, and now pacing back and forth. “I can’t be sure—but, yes I’m sure, I just came.”
I was mortified, like I had done something wrong, and he just starts laughing, in what I believe now was complete jealousy and awe.
After finishing up the other items on my list (that did not result in nearly as much delight), I could not wait to get home to see what the internet had to say about my experience. Surely, I cannot be the only one in the world this has happened to—and I was right.
Turns out “coregasms” are a real thing, and they happen to both women and men. Before attempting to look this up to see if you’d be so lucky, the prerequisite is a weak core, so if your midsection is in relatively good shape, and you’ve never had the pleasure, chances are you never will.
I could have lived without the experience, but something about it humbled me. Always trying to be in such control over everything in my life, this was something completely out of my hands—no pun intended.
Several days, and a few workouts later, we are back at the gym, and it’s core day again.
We decide to avoid the Roman chair until I’ve given myself adequate time to strengthen my abdominals. It was not difficult for Clint to find a substitution—plank to palm-plank—his version of plank to push-up, adjusted for my fitness level.
Before I can muddle my way through the first set of 12, already physically hurting, I drop. So damn frustrated, I throw myself back onto my knees, look up at him, and just start balling.
There I was, with my extra-black, vegan mascara running down my defeated face, trying to hold back everything that was trying to come out. I look around, no tissues. Quickly, I snap out of my hurt, using my red t-shirt to sop up my tears in an effort to hide my truth from the rest of the gym—I’m an emotional wreck whose entire year is catching up with her in one moment of weakness on the mat.
Clint, now at my level, and looking into my eyes says, “Babe. It’s okay—cry if you want to cry. Get mad, if you want to get mad. Just take your time.”
In that moment of weakness, I wanted to blame cancer, menopause, or the slippery gym floor that wouldn’t grip my overpriced and poorly named “athletic” shoes.
Reflecting on it now, maybe I just needed to have a really good cry. At the time, I was unaware that there was healing happening in my tears, but I’ve now learned that there are actual health benefits in doing so.
The emotional cry that had occurred not only allowed me to release toxins, relieve stress, and enhance my mood immediately, but it allowed me to experience vulnerability.
Relinquishing my grip on “control” in a healthy way allowed me to experience a deeper connection with not only my spouse, but with myself.
When I was ready to dust myself off, and get up to head home, Clint, doing his best Tom Hanks impersonation from his role in “A League of Their Own,” reminded me quickly, “There’s no crying at the gym!”
I couldn’t help but bite back, “There are no orgasms allowed either—that didn’t stop me from doing both.”